“How many grains make a heap?” Euboulides of Miletus asked long ago. How many anonymous sources from Bayern Munich’s locker room are enough to spin of simmering discontent? For Bild, the answer to this particular Stoic paradox is “just one”: the tabloid just published an article titled “Powder keg Bayern” in which Heiko Niedderer claims “now the players also have grave doubts about the quality of the roster,” something that the should “give the bosses serious pause.”
The story follows hot on the heels of comments made to SZ yesterday by Manuel Neuer’s agent Thomas Kroth. Kroth alleged that Bayern risks falling short of satisfying Neuer’s goal of competing for the Champions League:
Manuel is driven by success. My impression is that the distance from the four top English teams is already alarming and Munich’s roster has not yet been set up accordingly — that is, competitively — so as also to pursue Manuel’s goals seriously.
Obviously, Bayern has struggled thus far this summer to land its most publicized targets, especially Leroy Sané and Callum Hudson-Odoi (neither of whom, as of this writing, is definitively unavailable). But many fans share Kroth’s concern that the roster, in its present form, falls far short of the club’s ambitions.
According to Bild am Sonntag (BamS)’s information, many players think the same way. BamS recently asked a player about Bayern’s transfers. The answer: “I’d rather say nothing — you know my opinion...” [my emphasis]
Bild glosses this anonymous player’s opinion as arguing that “Bayern must urgently redouble its efforts so as not to fall behind internationally [i.e. in the Champions League].” Head coach Niko Kovac himself has publicly stated that Bayern needs to purchase four more players to reinforce the roster and suggested he would selectively adapt to a 3-5-2 formation if the club does not. But, according to Bild,
Even concerning him, many players also privately say he is not exactly a coach for whom a star absolutely wants to come to Bayern... [my emphasis]
Does that a powder keg make? Bild says so. The thrust of the story comes at the end: if Bayern fails “to present new stars soon,” then “things may simmer just as they did in many phases of last season.” The team indeed struggled in the fall in Kovac’s first season, but, despite disappointing results, the locker room unrest centered around players frustrated to find themselves on the bench. And Bild likes things to simmer hotter than they really do for its own journalistic purposes.
So how many are “many players”? Tres faciunt collegium the saying goes (“three make a company”), but how many make a powder keg?
If current Bayern players believe the present roster is inadequate and go so far as to indicate that to Bild, that is not an unreasonable view: the roster is inadequate, because five players have departed and only three have joined (out: James, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Rafinha, Mats Hummels / in: Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Pavard, Jann-Fiete Arp). But the panic ignores the obvious fact that Bayern is not nearly done.
In an ideal world, Bayern would have reinforced its offense as early as it reinforced its defense. But the transfer window will remain open for another two months (closing September 2). It is silly to think that Hasan Salihamidzic and the rest of Bayern’s leadership need to read Thomas Kroth’s remarks in SZ or an anonymous player’s vague no-comment in Bild to be reminded that they need to sign new players. They are working on it day and night, literally.
One consequence of Borussia Dortmund’s rapid-fire transfer bonanza in late May is that Bayern looks like a tortoise in a race with a hare. But Bayern is hardly the only “top club” waiting to set its ducks in a row. A glance at the uncertain fate of various superstars is enough to remind one that the transfer window is far from closed: Paul Pogba at United, Antoine Griezmann at Atletico, Neymar at PSG, and so on. Fiorentina’s president recently declared that he would not sell Federico Chiesa even for €100m to Liverpool’s and Tottenham’s dismay. Alas and alack, cancel Liverpool’s season!
As observers of the club and avid followers of the news, we collectively tend to focus only on the names about which concrete interest becomes public knowledge. And at BFW, we narrow those names down even further by relegating far-fetched rumors to the “Daily Schmankerl” until they become earnest or, more often, evaporate as quickly as they appear.
The club’s endeavors behind the scenes, away from the scrutiny of publications like Bild — and definitely away from our own narrow window on the workings of the club here at BFW — we can only guess.
Bayern has so far failed to sign any of its most highly publicized offensive transfers: Callum Hudson-Odoi might finally extend with Chelsea (or not — we don’t know), Leroy Sané has yet to make his decision known, Ousmane Dembélé may or may not even be available (if Bayern actually wants him!), and so on.
It is easy to forget this club’s potential to surprise us again and again (remember “Player of the Hinrunde 2015” Douglas Costa?). It also must be borne in mind that Bayern Munich decidedly is not a club that can vastly overpay for a big name or a shiny star. Would Bayern even think of signing João Félix (age 19) for a transfer fee of €126 million? No, Bayern simply cannot and will not take risks like that. Bayern is playing with its own money, and there is no one waiting in the wings to bail the club out for a bad move.
That fact is what makes Bayern extremely conservative on the transfer market. It can be frustrating; it makes it replacing superstars like Robben and Ribery a vastly more difficult, prolonged process, but it is the nature of the club.
Be patient. Be chill, as I often say. The club struck early with Pavard and Hernandez; Niko Kovac may not be a rock star like Pep Guardiola, but neither of these World Cup winners shunned Bayern because of him. This transfer window was bound to be a challenge simply because of the sheer number of veterans who have left the club. But there is no reason to hit the panic button.
I want to see Bayern prepare to compete on three fronts again next season as much as any die-hard fan, but I’m taking this window with a Mia san Mia attitude. Bayern will go its own way, on its own time. So come along for the ride until its over, and in the meantime let Bild simmer instead of Bayern.